To Market, Market Garden


In preparation for the opening of Celestial City: Sydney’s Chinese Story at the Museum of Sydney, a re-creation of a typical Chinese market garden is attracting growing interest in the Museum’s forecourt.

From the 1850s, Sydney’s Chinese community set up market gardens on the fringes of the city and provided much of the fresh produce required by a growing population. The market garden at the Museum of Sydney was designed and planted in consultation with the NSW Farmers Association and representatives from some of Sydney’s long-established Chinese market gardening families.

The official planting day was attended by over 100 people, many of Chinese-Australian heritage, who were invited to plant seedlings, water the garden and learn about the history of market gardens in the Sydney area. Jonny and Dexta, our market gardeners, were on hand to chat with visitors about the various herbs and vegetables being planted and give advice on how to grow them in domestic gardens.

Over the coming months, visitors to the Museum of Sydney can observe the garden as it grows, thrives and changes with the seasons. Plantings include Chinese vegetables such as gai lan, choy sum, bok choy, white radish, inn choy and shangai, herbs such as garlic chives, shallots, chives and coriander plus herbal plants used in traditional Chinese medicine, including South Africa tree, western ginseng and bull burdock. 

Appropriately, the market garden has been placed in virtually the same spot as Sydney’s first vegetable garden, planted by Governor Arthur Phillip in the grounds of what was to be Government House on the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.

Celebrate the launch of Celestial City: Sydney’s Chinese Story with us, next Saturday 29 March, with a day of entertainment, including curator talks, guided exhibition tours, Chinese painting workshops, and lion dancing performed by one of Sydney’s best lion dance groups. More details here. 


Written by Penelope Barker for Sydney Living Museums.

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